Combat Sports with The Vaccines

Popular award-winning UK indie rockers The Vaccines, are back on the road in the UK continuing their worldwide Combat Sports album tour with lighting designed by Dan Williams and equipment supplied by Colour Sound Experiment.

This is a completely new design. The Combat Sports album cycle started in April 2018 and having already played extensively around the UK last year, Dan and the band wanted to treat fans to a new visual experience and ensure that the Vaccines – known for their enthusiastic and ebullient live shows – saw something different.

Last year’s UK tour design was inspired by the album track “Nightclub”, yielding lots of mirror balls and a tungsteny disco vibe – although the song is every bit punky attitudinal rock with clever lyrics… and lots of bubble bath!

For the festival section of the tour, Dan had a gold sequined drape made up with a large logo across the middle, and this evolved into the lighting look for this leg, which bridges front the nightclub into the fight club, matching the band’s combative high energy sets.

The band – in particular lead singer/guitarist Justin Hayward-Young and guitarist Freddie Cowan – are usually also bursting with ideas, and one of these was to give the stage some Las Vegas touches.

These came in the form of a row of Martin VDO Sceptron 10s along the front of the upstage risers and two large scenic palm trees framing the stage each side, together with some other foliage sourced from Event Prop Hire. This proved a good transition from the disco glitz.

The visual concept and the juxtaposition between the glittery backdrop and the trees were both quirky and pleasing to the eye! The strip of Sceptrons drew a strong clean contemporary line through the performance space with the trees adding humour and playfulness.

All the touring lighting rig from Colour Sound was floor based, and they hooked into a local promoter provided ‘top’ rig at each venue.

The touring system started upstage with a row of six Robe MegaPointes, which provided a wide range of effects and are so versatile that six was more than enough to bring plenty of variety to the stage.

Dan likes their wide gobos and excellent zoom. With the band liking to be silhouetted and in the shadows, there was plenty of additional creative scope utilising these fixtures.

Further downstage was six 1.5-metre-long scaff poles on floor bases, each with a Portman P3 PIX3L on top and a JDC1 strobe clamped half way down the pipe.

In front of these were the Sceptrons along the lip of the risers and then six Claypaky A.leda K20 B-Eye LED wash lights positioned in a U shape around the band. Two of these each side were ideal for low level cross lighting treatment, with the remaining two secreted behind the risers which were perfect for illuminating the trees.

Thirty-two chrome (original) PAR 64s attached to four Litec QX30 truss towers on X-bases and wheeled tank traps, complete with miscellaneous outriggers, clamps and supports which were arranged like industrial palm leaves behind and between the two trees in a series of asymmetric curves.

Finally, a pair of Source Four Zooms on 2 metre scaff tubes placed at the downstage corners were used to shoot slices of luminescence across the backdrop and shimmer the logo.

For convenience, Colour Sound’s touring crew member Chris Steel and the team back at the warehouse in west London had devised some structural trickery so that most of the PAR support metalwork could be loaded into the truck without having to be dismantled each night which saved considerable time.

The touring package was controlled via two brand-new grandMA3 consoles which Dan was running in grandMA2 mode supported by a full Luminex system.

Their top spec comprised 16 x beams, 16 x profiles and 16 wash fixtures.

The overall show lighting vibe veers from the dark and moody to full-on rocky flash-and-strobe-tastic snapshots, with plenty of audience participation. The band have an amazing connection to their audiences which are also known for their rambunctiousness, and a big role for lighting the show is ensuring there’s a good transfer of infectious energy to and from the stage.

The band like warm colours, so there is plenty of tungsten range colours and fixtures – old and modern – with the P3s and PARs, and much of the set is lit with assorted warm whites, reds and ambers, with some blues and whites for contrasting and referencing back to earlier album content.

Colour Sound’s project manager for the tour was Alex Ryan.

Ironically, Vaccines was one of the first tours on which Alex tech’d – also for Colour Sound – as a freelance engineer! “I’ve always loved the Vaccines – their gigs are fun and it’s great to continue the relationship in a slightly different context” he declares.

Dan comments: “Alex has been brilliant – very helpful in looking after everything we have needed in a tight timeframe and keeping on budget”.

Dan pre-programmed the show for three days in Colour Sound’s pre-vis facilities. He’s known H (Haydn Cruickshank) and the company since around 2005, when working some of his first gigs as a technician.

He and Chris Steel have also worked together on previous occasions and they are a good on-the-road team, so all these factors coupled with Dan’s zeal for working with the Vaccines – whom he’s lit since 2014 – make it an enjoyable, positive and fun working environment.

Photo: Louise Stickland

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